Saturday, April 02, 2005

The hope of research based practices

This article by Debora Stipek, dean of the Stanford University school of education provides some excellent recommendations and cautions about the potential benefits and pitfalls of pursuing research-based educational practices. Here are some samplings:
They (US Department of Education) recommend, for example, research that is embedded in practice and that involves collaborations between researchers and practitioners. Unlike the traditional linear model of “research-into-practice,” their view of productive research and development involves moving back and forth between research and practice. Innovations are developed by researchers collaborating with practitioners. They are tried out in classrooms, refined or developed by practitioners in their schools and classrooms, and then systematically studied by researchers. The link between research and practice is assumed to be complex, reciprocal, and dynamic.

Wouldn't it be great to have a partnership with a local university school of education that is keen on working with us here at Halecrest to develop and study promising practices. All we need are a few more Chilis retreats and we can get this one rolling. :)

Practitioners’ decisions are based primarily on their own intuitions and experience and occasionally on advice from colleagues, principals, or workshop leaders. The idea of basing decisions on research findings or even data collected at the local level is not part of the culture of teaching. New technology and the push for data-based decisionmaking and evidence-based practice are beginning to change the situation, but basing decisions on research and data is a new concept. Both the desire to consult research and the skills to interpret it will need to be developed within the teaching community.

I think this paints a good picture of the educational community. There exists a slowly growing trend to pursue research-based practices but on a superficial basis, I'm afraid. We need time to study programs and interventions in order to make reasonable and informed decisions. Generally, I think the "Accountability Movement" for lack of a better term, has been very good for education, however the one downside are unrealistic timelines for improvement and change that lead to hasty and faulty implementations.

As a consequence, teachers need to have a deep understanding of the innovative methods and programs they are asked to implement. This requires far more time out of the classroom than they have available during the workday, and more training and support than most schools are organized to provide. Without these, however, the instruction that is actually implemented may bear little resemblance to the instruction that research demonstrated as effective.

Here's another plug for more time for collaboration. This is priority number one!

Although educational practices are hugely influenced by products developed in the private sector, objective evidence on the effects of these products on student learning is rare. Until recently, there have been no incentives for carefully designed studies because buyers haven’t asked for evidence, and no outside agency has monitored the quality or even the existence of evidence.

This is very true. Our recent decisions to invest in Tungsten and Successmaker are based mostly on word of mouth testimony and data compiled by the companies themselves. Independent research would add credibilty and confidence to schools who are making such substantial commitments. Until that happens, it behoves us to design sound evaluations of these programs to document success or failure.

1 comment:

Slacker said...